The Finale or A New Beginning?

I hope it doesn’t sound like I am bitter or in pain over the situation I’ve been telling you about. I was hurt, bitter, and confused. However, in the midst of this battle, I was also dealing with the single-most difficult tragedy in my life…the suicide of my “big brother.” He was technically my uncle, but we were really like brother and sister. Growing up, he and my grandma lived just across the alley and I was there more than I was at my own home.

My pastor friend helped me more than I think he knows. He was one of the people God used to bring Uncle Ed to a relationship with Christ. I have thanked God repeatedly for that. The day of the suicide, my family asked me to call the pastor because they knew how much Uncle Ed respected him and also because he was such a great source of comfort to them. They’d never met a pastor outside of a church building and this pastor came to hospitals and to homes. For them, it was God’s love through a man. Something they couldn’t see in me, because I was just Michelle to them.

I was hurting on so many different levels that day. Two days prior, all of those accusations had been made against me. The last thing I wanted to do was to call this pastor. God broke me in half and crushed me and made me realize that day that it wasn’t at ALL about me. It was about the room full of people who were hurting. The people who didn’t understand God’s promises. So I lowered my head and dropped down to beg for God’s forgiveness…and I called him.

I can imagine what he was thinking of me. I don’t want to speculate publically though. He visited with all of the grieving family and arrangements were made for the funeral. I was so grateful for him. I still am.

The day of the funeral came and I sat between in the middle of my grandmother and my step-grandmother. Smack between a 40 year bitter fued–one that unfortunately still continues. The funeral parlor was spilling over with people, yet it was silent. The pastor’s delivery of the message was just perfect for the audience. He didn’t skate around issues or candy-coat them. He said exactly what needed to be said. I heard one faint “Amen” from behind me and I silently thanked Him.

I’ve been to a lot of funerals, none as incredible as this. I still remember the silence. When the pastor was speaking, I didn’t even hear a sniffle, no one blew their nose, and no one cried. Everyone was listening. The experience equates to the one I had on September 11, 2001. Air traffic halted and the skies were quiet. Until then, I had never even noticed how noisy the air was. With Chicago airports silent, the air outside took on a lucid, dreamlike quality. That’s how it was in the room when the pastor was speaking.

I sent the pastor a thank you card and meant every word I said. I’m afraid he doesn’t believe me because of the events that have transpired. I still love his daughther, his wife, and him. I miss them. I think of them often and I find myself wishing things would have been different. Wondering “what if” It will have to be enough that God knows my heart and knows that I am ever-grateful for what the pastor did for me, my family, and my friends. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have a “do-over.” At the same time, though, if I didn’t go through all this or if I had the chance to do it over I wouldn’t have the lessons and experiences that God wanted me to have.

I’ve heard it said that there are two directions in a Christian’s life: toward God or away from Him. I feel like wondering what if and wishing for do-overs is like walking away from Him. From here, I desire to only move closer to Him. It means that instead of wanting it my way, I lay it down at His feet, ask Him to take it, and I LEAVE IT there. Some things have to die in order to have life.

I heard about “dying to self” but until I had to lay down my pride, I didn’t understand. Through these trials, God has ask me to do things I’ve never done, things that I’m not familiar with, and things I’m not comfortable with. Like when He called Peter out to walk on the water with Him. Peter didn’t think about it at first, he just went. He looked around and got scared and started sinking. I was sinking for a little while there and drowning terrifies me. Jesus reached down and grabbed me and at that moment, I had no choice but stare Him in the eyes. He reminded me that He was to be my focus. And later, again like Peter, Jesus flat out told me that it didn’t matter what He asked other people to do. He wanted to know if I was doing what He expected of me.

And here we are.

Now to the part you’ve been patiently wondering about. Thank you for coming with on this short ride. I appreciate your willingness to listen.

The burning churches. Well, I had a dream Monday before I woke up and started posting all of this. I had a dream about burning churches. I believe that is a seed planted for me to water. God will give the increase. This is what the seed looks like:

Churches burn with no sign of a starting point.

Two pastors go head to head–one says Satan, one says God.

They’re both hearing voices.

In my head, this book is called Flash Point. One meaning of “flash point” is the point at which something is ready to blow up. Scientifically, to measure a flash point a small cup with liquid in it is heated gradually while being continuously stirred so that the heat is evenly distributed. At regular intervals an open flame is directed into the cup. When the liquid reaches it’s flash point temperature, the contents will ignite.

My new verse came first:

My thoughts grew hot within me
and began to burn,
igniting a fire of words
Psalm 39:3

Then the dream. Then the title. Now I must get to writing…

Sleep deprivation, Psychosis and my dreams. Part Five. The Conclusion.

Read Part One Here.

Read Part Two Here.

Read Part Three Here.

Read Part Four Here.

I realize this subject is probably getting old. (That’s if you’re still with me on it) Even so, it seems like I’ve got issues to work out concerning the many facets of the situation.

Let’s recap. I had a trusted pastor friend who basically (short version) didn’t like the way I recalled my dreams and told me God doesn’t use dreams anymore. I have come to the understanding that God doesn’t use dreams to tell us about Himself or things to come, however, He can and does use dreams to teach lessons or give insight. Can Satan influence dreams? Sure. Can they be “of Satan” if I give them to God? I say no, because of the verse, “Greater is he that is in than he that is in the world.”

What’s this got to do with sleep deprivation and psychosis? “Child development researchers and other scientists have long observed that babies deprived of touch [tactile stimulation] are more likely to fail to thrive–and even die. The late Dr. John Bowlby’s classic studies of infants raised in stark orphanage nurseries in Britain after World War II showed that babies deprived of a caregiver’s loving touch more often than others failed to thrive and died. Dr. Bowlby called this “skin hunger”–a baby starving for cuddling, stroking, and holding.” Article Here.

I wonder, are dreams to mental health what touch is to survival?

If I had the money, the degree, and the resources, I’d be pursuing this with passion. Studies have shown that without sleep (thus without dreams) people either display psychotic behavior or they actually become psychotic. Is that just like those babies? The infants who were not touched failed to thrive or died.

Satan knows what the Bible says. I’d be willing to say that he probably knows the Bible better than most Christians (if not all.) When Satan tempted Jesus in the garden, he used Scripture. This is so powerfully important and I’ve heard very little about the impact that has on our daily lives.

I said yesterday, I’d explore how I saw God’s hand in all of this conflict and chaos. I think it all centers around what I’ve learned about God.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 32, we see King Hezekiah’s illness, pride, wealth, works, and death. At the end of verse 31 we read, “God left him to test him and discover what was in his heart.”

Romans 12:5 says that God has distributed a measure of faith to each believer.

In James 1:2-4 we read, “Consider it great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trial, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

God gives each believer a measure of faith. In order for faith to produce, it must be tested by various trials so that the believer may be mature and complete. God tests our faith to discover what is in our hearts.

Repeatedly, I heard from my pastor friend that Satan’s plot in this conflict is confusion. He also told me that it was ironic that just about the time God is going to do an “explosive work” at that church, something like this conflict occurs. He said that the devil wanted to make a turn in the road. My pastor friend told me all about Satan and what Satan wanted and how Satan worked.

I never once heard from him how God was working. I find that disturbing and sad. I couldn’t count the hours I’ve spent in prayer and study during this situation. I begged and pleaded with God for His wisdom in this.

The pastor said this, “This [situation,] given proper patience, prayer, and submission, will become a blemish in history not a turn in the road the devil wants to make it.”

My take on it–from my heart–is that Satan deserves no glory. There is One and only One who deserves recognition. The Lord my God.

There are so many layers to this conflict, so many whose hearts were tested in so many ways. I choose to focus on myself because I have access to the inner workings of my mind and thoughts and to pretend that I understand what lesson God wants someone else to learn or how He tested another would be foolish.

What I know–what I want to give God the glory for are the lessons He taught me.

I trusted someone else’s direction for my life (the pastor’s) instead of trusting Him. God was trying to show me that I didn’t belong in the position the pastor appointed me. I thought Satan was trying to discourage me from being involved in women’s ministry at that church because Satan doesn’t like ministry. Sounds logical enough. It did at the time, anyway. I’ve learned that God was trying to get my attention by not furthering the ministry. I couldn’t hear Him, though, because I was too busy focusing on what the pastor was saying and by giving Satan glory.

I allowed myself to be deceived into believing that people who go to church know what God wants. I thought God must want me in women’s ministry if His shepherd put me there. This one hurts the most. I blame no one except for myself. The pastor appointed me Director of Women’s Ministry and I grabbed the job and ran with all my might. That is not what God had for me. And instead of asking Him, I just assumed that His shepherd knew what He was doing. Oh how foolish of me!!

I thought that God’s people should approve of God’s call on my life. Now this was just stupid of me to believe. I look back and think that if I’d only have paid attention to (for example) the story of Moses, I’d see that God’s people don’t always know or approve of what God wants.

I thought others should understand what God was asking of me and I thought it was my job to make them understand. Again, stupid. See Moses again.

I’m still learning from this conflict. I questioned God when it first started, but now I’m finding joy in the trial. I’d rather focus on the fact that God is testing my faith to discover what is in my heart and to increase the measure of faith He gave me.

Now…what’s the burning church all about? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out. (Ok, so I thought I was done. I’m not!)

Sleep deprivation, Psychosis and my dreams. Part Four.

Read Part One Here.

Read Part Two Here.

Read Part Three Here.

The Holy Spirit lives in me, He guides me, comforts me, convicts me, and so much more. Was this pastor friend trying to tell me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t know what’s going on in my head at night? That He was somehow detached from my dreams? That He couldn’t use my dreams to teach me lessons? That He couldn’t use a dream to give me an idea?

That is exactly what this friend was telling me. And not just me. This is what he teaches in church. If God made us in His image, that would include our mind, dreams, and emotions. And I say that if I let Satan get a foot in the door, he has the ability to shut me down, discourage me, and fill me with lies. Which ultimately keeps me from doing God’s will.

Was this Satan trying to discourage me from writing or God teaching me a valuable lesson?

Several times, I was told that the dreams I was having were Satan’s way of trying to deter me from God. I was told that God absolutely does not speak to people in dreams anymore. When I read the Bible, I understand that He may not be using dreams as a way to prophesy but I also understand that God does not change. If He doesn’t change, His character never changes, and His ways never change, why would He just stop using dreams as a way to reach people (like the verse in Job states?) Or as a source of comfort and reassurance as in the New Testament shows in different examples?

I was literally sick about this. I was having dreams. A lot of them. But this mentor of mine, my pastor friend was telling me the dreams were basically satanic. I asked how it is that Christ can live IN me–how I can be “of like mind” with other believers and yet, the dreams originate from Satan? How can Satan be IN me when Christ is IN me?

I understand the argument that Satan can influence my conscience mind, therefore my subconscious mind might recollect that influence in a dream but what about “the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NLT) If I am to take this at face value, then I see that it says that the Holy Spirit is greater than any demonic spirit who tries to influence me. Wouldn’t that indicate that a satanic influence would stand no chance when filtered through the Spirit?

I had a friend tell me that she read parts one, two, and three and didn’t understand. She thought I was “too deep.” I laughed and told her I don’t understand either. I’m trying to work it all out and I had no idea it was going to turn into a series. But I’m not done yet and I’m going to keep going.

Tomorrow I’ll explore how I see God’s hand in all of this. Especially in the conflict.

Sleep deprivation, Psychosis and my dreams. Part Three.

Read Part One Here.

Read Part Two Here.

That’s what it felt like. He hit it dead-on. I was being accused and I had to defend myself. I was preparing my defense. I would be “on trial” Friday night.

The Exodus verse kept coming back to me and I kept questioning God, “How can I present my defense and remain quiet?”

God laughed and made me read the verse again. And again. And again. I felt a little silly after the umpteenth time and it hit me: THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; you must be quiet. My focus had been on being quiet. I was still “preparing” for this meeting, this “trial,” when I should have been focusing on Him.

When I finally realized my detrimental mistake, I began to learn and a whole new level of understanding was born. God is tough on me. There’s no easy way out, no easy answers. If I want to follow Him, I have to understand that it is not all cotton candy and green grassy fields. Sometimes I have to follow Him into that valley–the dark place that scares the life out of me. I have to follow Him to places I’ve never been before. And I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing even when I can’t figure it out.

Now comes the part about the Psychosis.

Psychological researchers have tended to minimize the effects of sleep insufficiency, acknowledging that society may be getting too little sleep, but treating the effects of this sleep deprivation as nothing more significant than an inconvenience which makes people feel a bit tired now and then.

This view is incorrect. Recent research suggests that each day with insufficient sleep increases our sleep debt and, when this sleep debt becomes large enough, noticeable problems appear (Coren, 1996a).

Article here.

If we’re not entering into REM sleep, we’re not dreaming. If we’re not getting enough REM sleep, we’re not dreaming enough.

The voices that psychotic people hear are often critical voices, telling them that they are worthless or they are doing something incorrectly. Michael Musalek, a psychiatrist at the University of Vienna, has suggested that psychotic symptoms reflect the core existential dilemmas experienced by ordinary people, and that really resonates with me.

VERY interesting article here.

Does it sound like the enemy has a grasp on what we, as humans, don’t want to admit?

Presumably, those who had the CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy], and were helped to think about relationships or other problems in a less negative or self-deprecating way, were the less likely to become psychotic?

Same article.

I was in a situation in which I was being pounded by some made-up doctrine and this pastor I trusted was telling me that I shouldn’t be paying attention to what I dream and I shouldn’t be paying attention to my emotions. I’m not a scientist by any means, I know that. I’m a nobody with problems. I look to God for my answers and try my best to keep my blinders on while I’m looking at Him.

It bothered me a lot to be told that I shouldn’t pay attention to my dreams. It’s not like I was making decisions based on them. I was simply writing them down and reflecting the meaning.

The Holy Spirit lives in me, He guides me, comforts me, convicts me, and so much more. Was this pastor friend trying to tell me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t know what’s going on in my head at night? That He was somehow detached from my dreams? That He couldn’t use my dreams to teach me lessons? That He couldn’t use a dream to give me an idea?

That is exactly what this friend was telling me. And not just me. This is what he teaches in church. If God made us in His image, that would include our mind, dreams, and emotions. And I say that if I let Satan get a foot in the door, he has the ability to shut me down, discourage me, and fill me with lies. Which ultimately keeps me from doing God’s will.

Was this Satan trying to discourage me from writing or God teaching me a valuable lesson? I’ll explore more tomorrow.

Sleep deprivation, Psychosis and my dreams. Part Two.

Read Part One Here.

I truly believe, with everything I have in me, that God allowed the conflict with our friend so that I would learn some lessons that cannot be heard, but must be experienced. This conflict started as a seed in our pastor friend’s mind. It grew until the final harvest was a bitter battle. He accusing me of being “unbiblical” for even considering dreaming and I presenting this accusation to God asking if it was true.

I was told by a very wise man and good friend that I needed to pay attention. If our pastor friend was right, I needed to change things. I took it all in and it was a very serious matter to me. Never before had I been accused of being “unbiblical.” And not just that. The list of accusations made was daunting to my tender soul.

Publically, I was accused by the of:

~Not being a Biblical wife (in other words, I did not submit to my husband and I did not have a “meek and quiet spirit”)

~Casting frustration on “babes”

~Being over-zealous without knowledge

~Not having “patient endurance”

~I was told that I needed to spend time studying Biblical leadership in Hebrews 13:17

~that I needed to realize the roll of the husband and the roll of the wife

~that I should be learning in silence (that what was seen was “an awful lot of talking and not much learning”)

~that I needed to spend time seeking God’s will for my life

~that I needed to “be still”

~that I needed patience

~that I needed endurance

Behind my back, I was accused of:

~Frightening new believers

~Teaching unbiblical doctrine

~Being spiritually immature

~And something about these dreams. I was not ever approached directly by anyone who could fully explain what the problem seemed to be, so to this day I do not know.

Yet, I was not approached by my pastor friend about any of this.

I upset his wife one day, without meaning to. I apologized when I saw she was getting upset and I tried to explain myself. The apology fell on deaf ears. She must have told her husband because the next day he called a total of six other friends and urged them to recall anything I had done to anyone in the past year that seemed questionable because they needed to “take care of this for good.” And he invited me over so they could “care over my soul.” He told me it was non-adversarial. I told him that it didn’t feel that way. He told me that I shouldn’t base things on “feelings.”

Now I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I am a student. I understood that if I upset someone, they were to come to me privately. Since this didn’t happen, I didn’t know what to do. Remember, I’d been away from God for twelve years and had just been walking with Him again for the past two-ish. I called on another pastor friend that we’d met on several occasions and also our associational director. I received excellent advice from both of them and I spent a good seven hours a day for a full five days, studying the Bible, praying and studying Biblcal “experts” in the areas of accusation.

Weeks before this avalanche, I was reading my Bible. I was in Exodus. 14:14. I couldn’t continue reading until I underlined that verse. It says: “The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.”

During this time, my husband accused me of being “consumed” with the situation and he was angry that I was spending so much time with my nose in books. He said it looked as if I was a lawyer preparing for trial.

That’s what it felt like. He hit it dead-on. I was being accused and I had to defend myself. I was preparing my defense. I would be “on trial” Friday night.

The Exodus verse kept coming back to me and I kept questioning God, “How can I present my defense and remain quiet?”